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Aug 7, 2014 12:04 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Flower shop targeted by TEP phone scam

TUCSON - A local flower shop is the latest target of an ongoing phone scam. A caller claims to be from the power company and tries to extort money.

But the scammers picked the wrong business to mess with. The florist called police.

Tucson Police say this scam is at least two years old. The caller threatens to turn off the electricity unless the customer purchases a pre-paid money card. In this case the caller was demanding a thousand dollars.

Jim Stith owns Sav On Flowers. On Wednesday an employee called him panicked. "The message from her went something like, Tucson Electric Power is going to shut our power off in the next couple of hours if we don't get a bill paid," explained Stith.

Forty years in business Stith said he's meticulous with paying bills on time. He called the power company and police. Then called the scammers back.

"We stalled them many times, to see if TPD could do a pick up on their GPS, they of course haven't called me back to tell me if they have or haven't yet," said Stith.

The fraud unit is investigating. Over the past couple years other Tucson businesses have been targeted too. Tucson Police say no arrests have been made connected to this particular scam. The difficulty lies in tracing the phones used.

Tucson Electric Power has posted a warning on its website telling customers they never request payment over the phone. Disconnect notices are mailed.

"They wanted $1,000 but then he came back and said, no we can do $700," described Stith.

The Stith family have been florists for 76 years, on Speedway. By sharing his story Stith hopes to prevent small businesses like his from being taken advantage of.

"So for someone to treat you like that, it's just immoral and it will catch up to them," he said.

If you have been a victim of the scam or have information that can help police catch those behind it, call 911 or 88-Crime.

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